Duhamel takes over from Emilio Estevez, the franchise’s original star, who announced in November that he would not be returning for the show’s second run on the streaming service.
Estevez had been the lynchpin of the Mighty Ducks franchise, starring in each of the series three films in 1992, 1994 and 1996 respectively. He not only starred in Game Changers, but also served as executive producer.
The reason behind Estevez’s departure has been disputed, with the actor and producers ABC Signature offering up differing reasons for the split.
When the actor departed the show, it was reported that he had declined to provide assurances that he would comply with the show’s policy around Covid-19 vaccinations and this had led to his contract not being renewed.
Estevez, however, had put his departure down to creative differences, and told Deadline that Covid nothing to do with it, stating: “My exit from the show was due to a myriad of creative differences — any other narrative is false.”
The first season of Game Changers was well received by both viewers and critics, and, though Estevez was initially written to be part of the season, the announcement of Duhamel’s casting brings any possibility he might return to an end.
Who are the Mighty Ducks? What’s the story?
Originally released in 1992, The Mighty Ducks followed Estevez’s Gordon Bombay, a Minneapolis-based attorney, who, after being pulled over for drunk driving, is given community service coaching youth ice hockey.
Bombay, once a promising player himself, has fallen out of love with the game. Once assigned the punishment he meets the District 5 peewee hockey team, perennial losers who finish at the bottom of the league standings year after year.
After agreeing to coach the team, he rebrands them the Mighty Ducks and inspires the team to victory.
Two sequels were released in 1994 and 1996 and an animated TV series came around the same time.
The franchise was a hit, so much so that Disney set up an actual ice hockey team, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, to play in the National Hockey League. The team, now simply the Anaheim Ducks, are still going strong today.
What happened with the reboot?
There was much excitement when the reboot was announced in 2018 to support the launch of Disney+.
Named The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, the 10-part series debuted on Disney+ in March of 2021.
It starred Lauren Graham, best known for her role as Lorelei Gilmore in The Gilmore Girls, as Alex Morrow, who, after seeing her son Evan dropped by the Mighty Ducks, helps him to start his own team.
The aim was to find the team, which they have named the Don’t Bothers, somewhere to practise, so Alex searched for an ice rink.
After being turned down by many area rinks, Alex stumbled upon the Ice Palace, a rundown rink owned and operated by Gordon Bombay. Initially grudging about the possibility, Bombay reluctantly agreed to let the team practise there and soon found himself roped in to coaching once again.
Where does Josh Duhamel come in?
Be warned, if you’ve not the first season of Game Changers, there are some spoilers below.
Having ended their first season in triumph and recaptured the name The Mighty Ducks, it seems the team are now set to spend their summer at a hockey institute.
It’s here they will meet Duhamel’s Gavin Cole, a former NHL player-turned-coach who is described as inspirational, charming and hardcore.
How he will become the team’s coach and how the abrupt departure of Estevez will be explained is as yet unknown.
However it’s done, it will be a big change to see the team without Estevez, who has been such a constant in the franchise’s history, and, for many, was such a key part of the reboot’s success.
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